Friday, January 23, 2009

Humanitarian Aid for Gaza an Insult

There is much talk about the humanitarian aid needed in Gaza - how the international community must respond by giving money and assistance to rebuild what was destroyed in the Israeli attacks. John Holmes, U.N. head of humanitarian affairs, today urges quick fundraising for emergency repairs in Gaza. I agree - we need to help with the rebuilding. Gaza, the home of 1.6 million people, has been destroyed and we need to help provide shelter for all the people once again made homeless by Israeli military actions.

However, humanitarian aid is meaningless - it would even be an insult - without political changes. As long as Israel occupies "Palestinian" lands, there will be no peace and there will be no justice for Palestinians. Rebuilding Gaza so that life can return to "normal" is not what Gazans want. They want change - their borders opened, reporters allowed back in, and trade to resume so that they can have heat, medical supplies, food and other necessities of life. In an article in today's Denver Post, Gazans are seen reopening the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt so they can resume smuggling. The smuggled items the reporter saw were - chocolate-covered cookies from Egypt. Not weapons to attack Israelis, just the stuff of daily life - cookies! Another man talks about getting the gas needed for transportation.

The tunnels, seen by the Israelis as a danger to their safety, would not be needed if the Israeli-imposed blockade were lifted and Gazans could get their chocolate-covered cookies like we do - from trucks and trains that travel and deliver their goods above-ground.

The attacks on Hamas seem to have only increased Hamas' popularity. People who previously had no use for Hamas, are now supporters - united behind a government disregarded and persecuted by Israel and Western governments including the U.S.

If we really want to help the people of Gaza, who have lost everything, we must not only give our money, but demand political change - respect for elected Palestinian leaders, an end to the blockade of Gaza, opening of the border crossings with Israel and with Egypt. If these political changes were made, Gazans could help themselves rebuild. This is what they really want and need from us.

More knowledgeable people than I have raised these issues. Read Henry Siegman's article< "Israel's Lies," in this week's London Review of Books:

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